Sunday, October 26, 2008

Rubin: U.S. and Iran in Afghanistan

An article I wrote with Sara Batmanglich about U.S.-Iran relations in Afghanistan has been posted on the website of MIT's Center for International Studies. It opens:
AFGHANISTAN IS ONE of several contexts in which the long-term common interests of the U.S. and Iran have been overshadowed by the animus originating in the 1953 CIA-led coup in Iran and the Iranian revolution of 1979, to the detriment of the interests of the U.S., Iran, and Afghanistan. This confrontation has served the interests of the Pakistan military, Taliban, and al-Qaida. Re-establishing the basis for U.S.-Iranian cooperation in Afghanistan would provide significant additional leverage over Pakistan, on whose territory the leadership of both the Taliban and al-Qaida are now found.
And it ends:

There is, however, a major strategic judgment to be revisited. The military and intelligence agencies of both Pakistan and Iran have systematically used asymmetrical warfare, including terrorism, as a tool of their security policy. Which of them poses a greater threat to U.S. national interest and international peace and security? How should responses to these two threats be balanced? Since the Iranian revolution, the U.S. has overreacted to the Iranian threat and engaged in systematic appeasement of Pakistan, which is now home to the leadership of both al-Qaida and the Taliban (both Afghan and Pakistani). These countries are rivals for influence in Afghanistan and are sponsoring competing infrastructure projects for road transport and energy trade. Iran and India are building a combined rail and road link from the Iranian port of Chah Bahar to Afghanistan’s major highway. Pakistan, with Chinese aid, is building the port of Gwadar in Baluchistan, aiming at a north-south route to Central Asia. “Taliban” regularly attack Indian road building crews in southwest Afghanistan, and Pakistan charges that India is supporting Baluch insurgents from its consulates in Afghanistan.

A reevaluation of the threats originating in Iran and Pakistan should lead to a recalibration of U.S. policy in Afghanistan to tilt away from Pakistan and more toward Iran. Yet it would be wrong and destructive to treat Pakistan with the type of enmity now reserved for Iran. Like Iran, Pakistan’s policy is motivated by a combination of genuine security threats, ideological aspirations, and institutional interest. In Pakistan’s more open political system, it is far easier for the U.S. to engage with allies inside the country against the security services whose covert policies the U.S. finds threatening.

Ultimately, U.S. interests would be best served by supporting efforts to extend and improve governance and security in both Afghanistan and Pakistan, thereby depriving al-Qaida and its epigones of refuge on either side of the border. Using Afghanistan as a base for anti-Iran policies handicaps the U.S. in pressing for Pakistani cooperation, thus undermining one of the country’s most important strategic objectives. Of course, such recalibration will also require shifts in Iranian policy away from the path it has taken. Clearly abandoning any U.S. agenda of forcible regime change in Iran will make such a shift much more likely.



I have written about your article with comments on my blog. Would love to hear from you. Regards

Anonymous said...

"Ultimately, U.S. interests would be best served by supporting efforts to extend and improve governance and security in both Afghanistan and Pakistan, thereby depriving al-Qaida and its epigones of refuge on either side of the border."

[Written like true liberal warriors, who never found a war they could not find a reason to support as long as they were not the fighters or in the line of fire. Gandhi would so understand, but not me.]

David Sketchley said...

Batman & Rubin wrote: "The military and intelligence agencies of both Pakistan and Iran have systematically used asymmetrical warfare, including terrorism, as a tool of their security policy."

Er yes. Excuse me? And the US hasn't? The CIA is the largest most evil terrorist organisation the world has ever seen. Why don't you write about that? And the effect the CIA has had on the area instead of this pseudo-intellectual crap?


Barnett R. Rubin said...

Actually I have written on the effect of the CIA on the region. See my books, The Fragmentation of Afghanistan and the Search for Peace in Afghanistan, both heavily cited by Steve Coll in Ghost Wars.

David Sketchley said...

Apologies for my rudeness.

It would have been nice to have seen some comment to that effect in the piece itself though. The fact that you have written about it in a book doesn't necessarily mean that people who read this blog are aware of that fact. I mean, would it have necessarily affected the piece if you had included the US in the sentence?

For example: "The military and intelligence agencies of Pakistan, Iran and the US have systematically used asymmetrical warfare, including terrorism, as a tool of their security policy"...

Anonymous said...

"The military and intelligence agencies of both Pakistan and Iran have systematically used asymmetrical warfare, including terrorism, as a tool of their security policy."

This is fear-mongering rubbish meant to support a forever occupation of Afghanistan by America and to allow for at will attacks on Pakistan or Iran by America.

This from the lovers of the people of Afghanistan....

Anonymous said...

I have no apology for being rude.

Let's see how long it takes Barack Obama to launch attacks in Afghanistan and against Pakistan, since pretend liberals are so in love with the right war in Afghanistan and are encouraging just this and more.

Somalia again?
Syria? We just attacked Syria, after all as the Bush Doctrine expanded still further. Any complaints from pretend liberal foreign policy folks?

Anonymous said...

November 5, 2008

Beggars Will Be Arrested

KABUL - A resolution by the ministers' council - chaired by Afghan President Hamid Karzai - has outlawed street begging and instructed the Interior Ministry to arrest beggars and send them to orphanages and care homes run by the Afghan Red Crescent Society (ARCS).

"No person - man or woman - should be begging, and children and other persons must not be used for this purpose," reads a statement issued by the president's office on 3 November.

"To respect human dignity, ensure social order and in light of Islamic and domestic laws, some measures have been adopted to eradicate begging… which disgraces the Afghan people," the statement said.

The top-level initiative tasks the interior and social affairs ministries with drawing up and implementing a comprehensive plan to end street begging.

The exact number of street beggars is unclear but the phenomenon is common in urban areas.

Most of the beggars on Kabul streets are children, women, disabled or the elderly. Officials say they are prone to crime and exploitation, and sometimes engage in violent and anti-social behaviour.

Minors who beg are considered particularly vulnerable to sexual abuse and drugs smuggling, experts say.

Fake beggars

"Not all those who beg on the streets are actually beggars," Golam Gaws Bashiry, deputy labour and social affairs minister, told IRIN.

"We will first identify true beggars - those who have no other means of survival - and will send them to `Marastoons' [care houses run by ARCS]," he said.

Bashiry said begging was a lucrative activity for some who are not really beggars. "We found up to US$1,000 on some of them [beggars] when we tried to collect them from the streets last year."

The government will set up a commission to distinguish true beggars from false ones; the process will take several months, officials said.

Afghanistan is ranked by the UN Development Programme as the fifth least developed country in the world; almost half of its estimated 26.6 million people live on less than US$2 a day, according to aid agencies.

More than 40 percent of Afghans are facing food insecurity, and the UN World Food Programme is trying to feed about eight million of the most vulnerable.

Anonymous said...


Out of the other ethnicities, the Baloch people have suffered the most under an administration dominated by Punjabis.

The region of Balochistan is mostly waste land covered by deserts and uncultivable land. However this area is also rich in mineral reserves such as natural gas and petroleum.

In fact, 90% of Pakistan’s energy requirements are met by the natural reserves of the province of Balochistan.

But the irony is that this province does not even get 5% of the electricity produced from the land in this region. So much for Islamic/Pakistani brotherhood!

The per capita income of Balochistan is next to zilch when compared to Punjab.

Balochistan has hardly any schools or colleges except in the capital city of Quetta. The Baloch people have to travel great distances even to get basic necessities such as water and food supplies.
There are hardly any roads or major railway links in Balochistan. Most Baloch people have to work as migrant labourers in the more developed cities of Karachi and Islamabad.

The Pakistani Army rape women and young girls, kill non-combatants; in general terms, they spread misery amongst the Baloch population.

It is not as if the Civil or Military Administration is unaware of these facts. On the other hand, the Administration fully supports these cruel techniques used by the Pakistani Army to subdue the Baloch.

This is actually a return gift from the Pakistani Administration for the audacity of asking for the basic human rights by the Baloch.

There are no technical institutions where people from Balochistan can pursue education, which would enable them to achieve a respectable status. All the work in the various military or civilians are assigned to non-local labour.

This is not done because the Baloch people are lazy or unable to do work. Rather this is being done to add to the depravity of the already suffering people of Balochistan.

The Baloch people who are not so religious, but are however fiercely independent in spirit were ultimately fed up with the Punjabi-led administration decided to rebel against it.

Even though there is a long history of rebellion of the Baloch people against the evil Pakistani Administration, I will confine myself to a recent event that has become epoch in the history of Balochistan.

I will tell you the short story of Nawab Akbar Bughti. He was a man who once believed in the nation of Pakistan and even occupied several important positions in the Pakistani administration unlike most of his Baloch brothers who were not so lucky.

When he came back to his native place, he was really appalled to see the barbarity with which the Pakistani army treated the Baloch people. He could no longer tolerate the injustice and decided to fight the oppression.

He fought, to secure basic Human rights for his people. The Pakistani Administration decided that this impudent Baloch, who had the guts to ask for equal rights, should also be given a return gift. He was bombed in his house, which was actually a cave, in the middle of night.

This was a warning for the rest of the Baloch people to shut up or suffer similar consequences.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. Now the Pakistani administration has found a new way of subduing the Baloch. They have started colonising the Baloch land in bits and pieces to establish colonies of Punjabi ex-army men in order to destabilize the ethnic balance of the area.

To add to the woes of the Baloch, Afghan refugees have also been provided habitations in the Baloch land. This was hardly done out of compassion for the refugees, why not house them in Punjab?

The real reason was to turn the native population of Balochistan into minorities. This way, they are being gradually subdued with ease.

While the Western Media chooses to cherry pick the events in Pakistan, we seldom get to hear the moans and cries of these unfortunate people, caught between the devil and the deep blue sea.

As I write this article, there might be a Baloch woman being molested by the Army of Pakistan, a child being beaten up for being who he is.

Nobody will ever be able to assess the exact extent of the atrocities the Pakistani Administration has committed upon the Baloch people.

I really don’t understand why the media of the free world chooses to ignore a Human tragedy which occurs everyday in a country as well known as Pakistan.

I also wonder why the Western leaders don’t ask the Pakistani administration as to why these people are suffering so much even after the billions of dollars in Aid.

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